Lament of the pygmy shrew

Bali bomber Amrozi’s death sentence has generated some strange resonances with the just-concluded Troppo Armadillo debate on Alison Broinowski’s ideas about Asian perceptions of Australia. The first is that Amrozi’s apparent apology to Australians (dealt with below by Christopher Sheil) seems to give the lie conclusively to the Broinowski/Deegan position on Bali i.e. it was “blowback” for our Ockerish projection of western values and alignment with the Yanks. Of course that won’t stop either of them from continuing to make such claims, or the ABC or Silly Moaning Hillmer from reporting them uncritically. Maybe that’s the real reason why they’ve failed to report Amrozi’s apology.

The second resonance is that many of the same people who most enthusiastically embraced Broinowski’s advocacy of expedient grovelling at the feet of “Asian values” are now demanding equally stridently that Howard and Crean should rebuke the Indonesians for failing to embody left-liberal values of opposition to capital punishment. Consistency isn’t a prized virtue on the left. In fact just about their only consistent attribute is an irresistible compulsion to stampede to what they perceive as the moral high ground on every occasion, from whose commanding heights they pour vats of patronising moral censure on the lumpen masses below.

Meanwhile, we benighted centrists wallow in pits of sticky marshmallow, eternally caught in the crossfire between serried legions of ideological warriors. As Geoff Honnor put it the other day:

A quite extraordinary amount of energy goes into discovering what you ‘really’ think in order that you might be ‘fitted’ neatly into the appropriate partisan slot. There’s almost a subtext continuum of pinning the political tail on the centrist donkey which, if you think about it, is actually quite dispiriting. The notion that you might arrive at quite different rational conclusions on any particular political or sociocultural topic – according to the analysis you employ – is actually quite threatening to many people.

Sometimes I feel more like a pygmy shrew than an armadillo.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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cs
cs
2022 years ago

Whether benighted centrist, armadillo or pygmy shrew, you’re a bloody provocative bugger you are Ken P.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Come on Chris, surely you can fulminate a bit more than that. It’s hardly worth going to the trouble of writing for a tepid response like that.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Your comment about the relevance of Alison Broinowski’s analysis is spot-on. Yesterday we had Andrew Bartlett lambasting Jakarta for it’s “barbarism;” this morning Margo screeches, in a bi-partisan way, at Howard and Crean for valuing Australian lives over Asian ones given their stated disinclination to engage the Indonesians on their decision to execute Amrosi. From different directions they’ve come upon the moral high ground and are occupying it to their perceived political advantage without apparent reference to Indonesian sensibility. Margo also imputes colossal stupidity to the Indonesian decision to charge Amrosi under retrospectively applied legislation. Whence our need to engage sensitively with Asia when the boot is on the Left foot?

Niall
2022 years ago

I fail to understand the pre-occupation with journalists and authors who adopt ideologically opposite stand points to any given belief or platform. As for politicians….it’s what they do. Nothing will ever change that.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Here’s an interesting and thoughtful post on the Amrosi sentence you might find interesting Ken:

http://www.for-crying-out-loud.com/2003_08_01_archive.html#106040721070222362

I think this blog will be added to the BlogIntern on Monday.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Of marginal relevance here: just what the hell is John Howard playing at with his call for a nationwide debate on capital punishment? At best it looks like a sleazy little exercise in dog-whistle politics to me.

And maybe I’ll just have a bit of a gripe about this whole stampede to the high ground thing, especially the concentration on the left. Then I’ll consider the possibility that you recognise that the right might play the same game from time to time and consider it a wake up call from a disappointed centrist who’s possibly taking a similar position to Orwell in his gripe about nudists and “men in shorts”. On the consistency thing, well there’s probably a whole post in that somewhere but it’s just going to have to take its turn in the queue.

Gareth
2022 years ago

Gummo… Is Howard actually calling for a debate? Or is the Fairfax press putting words in his mouth?

From the SMH:

“I know lots of Australians who believe that a death penalty is appropriate and they are not barbaric, they’re not insensitive, they’re not vindictive, they’re not vengeful, they’re people who believe that if you take another’s life deliberately then justice requires that your life be taken.”

Mr Howard said that even if he were in favour of reintroducing the death penalty, he could not pass such a law. However, it could be “pursued at a state political level”.

“If people want to raise it again it would be open, for example, to the Victorian opposition, if you have a different view on this matter, to promote it as an electoral issue.

“I’m not encouraging them to do so but I’m just making the point that there should be debate on it.”

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I suspect that the ‘national debate’ call is politics as usual, the aim being to skewer the ALP on the rock of moral issue positioning versus voter expectation. I doubt that Howard wants – or expects – a national debate. What he does want is to see the ALP a house divided – Lawrenceite lefties vs Lathamite lurchers. You might recall him lobbing the IVF hand grenade into the ALP national conference in Hobart a couple of years ago …….

I don’t sense any broad appetite for such a debate and with Labor governments universally in office at state and territory level, none of them is going to bite. Providing they hold that position, state oppositions won’t be keen to go there either given that the only air available would be way out on the nutty right…past Tuckey and Heffernan even.

There’s actually an interesting discussion to be had about the extent to which a principled position against the death penalty in Australia should feature in our relationships with states where capital punishment remains extant; i.e. to what extent should foreign relations pragmatism predominate over general moral principle? I’m also interested in this phenomenon where people firmly eschew the barbarity of capital punishment but linger lovingly over the satisfying prospect of a lifetime passed in wonderfully retributive suffering. There’s maybe a bit of a dichotomy tracking somewhere around in there…..

wen
wen
2022 years ago

That way you get to take the moral high ground while secretly enjoying a good wallow in the murk…

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

Ken, who did you have in mind here? The only people I’ve seen criticising Howard on the Amrozi sentence were Duncan Kerr and Carmen Lawrence, and it’s my impression that both of these were opponents of accommodation with Suharto, Lee Kuan Yew etc.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Gareth,

Having re-read the SMH article, I’d say yes, Howard’s quoted comments do amount to a call for a debate (I picked up on the article via Scott Wickstein BTW, who appears to share my assessment of Howard’s comments); here are the remarks I consider particularly telling:

“If people want to raise it again it would be open, for example, to the Victorian opposition, if you have a different view on this matter, to promote it as an electoral issue.

“I’m not encouraging them to do so but I’m just making the point that there should be debate on it.”

mark
2022 years ago

Nice bit of weasel-work there from King Johnny. “I’m not going to encourage you to have a debate, but, y’know, you really ought to do it. Gwan, please?”

If that’s not the closest thing to calling for a debate without actually banging your fists on the table and shrieking “fight, fight, fight!” then I don’t know what is!

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I think it’s plainer than that Mark. He’s saying he is not encouraging the Victorian opposition to raise it as an electoral issue, but that there should be a general public debate on it regardless.